Top Pro & Con Arguments
Students’ legal right to free expression remains intact with mandatory school uniforms.
The 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which concerned the wearing of black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, confirmed that students’ constitutional right to free speech “does not relate to regulation of the length of skirts or the type of clothing.” Wearing one’s own choice of shirt or pants is not the “pure speech” protected by the Constitution.
In Canady v. Bossier Parish School Board (3-0, 2001), the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a school board’s right to implement a mandatory uniform policy, stating that requiring uniforms for the purpose of increasing test scores and improving discipline “is in no way related to the suppression of student speech. [Students] remain free to wear what they want after school hours. Students may still express their views through other mediums during the school day.”
Besides, students can still express their individuality in school uniforms by introducing variations and adding accessories. Junior high school student Amelia Jimenez wrote in her op-ed for the Pennsylvania Patriot-News that “contrary to popular belief, uniforms do not stop students from being themselves. Uniforms do not silence voices. Students can wear a variety of expressive items, such as buttons or jewlery.” Students can inject their personal style into their daily look with hairstyles, nail polish, and colorful accessories such as bags, scarfs, and fun socks. 54% of eighth-graders said they could still express their individuality while wearing school uniforms.
Further, students dressed in uniform are better perceived by teachers and peers. A 1994 peer-reviewed study found that students in uniform were perceived by teachers and fellow students as being more academically proficient than students in regular clothes. The study also found that students in uniform were perceived by peers and teachers as having higher academic potential, and perceived by peers as being better behaved. Students need to learn a balance between free expression and working within the confines of expectations.Read More